Thursday, December 11, 2014

Swirling Chiffon

    For its remarkable fragile fluidity, nothing is comparable to chiffon for what it can bring to the Attire dialog.  But before I get into how widely expressive it can be, lets get the brass tacks stuff out of the way, first.
    Chiffon is a plain weave fabric, meaning that the warp and weft threads are evenly used, one up, one down, in the weave. The name chiffon derives from the French term which means a piece of fabric, or a rag, and has its first known use in 1765, making it a fairly young textile in the Attire world.  What creates its unique qualities is both they type of thread used, and the openness of the overall weave.  High twist threads are always used for chiffon, which, when woven, create a slight puckering in both directions that gives the fabric both a subtle elasticity, and its somewhat rough feel to the hand.  Made up most often in cotton, silk, rayon, and polyester fibers, chiffon differs from the term satin, in that it refers to weave structure, and to type of thread used.  Prior too the invention of rayon in the 1920s, chiffon was exclusively woven in either cotton or silk.
     Now, on to the good stuff.
    Chiffon, for its remarkable fluidity, its fragility, and its inescapable sensuality, is a consistent go to fabric for evening apparel, lingerie, and exquisitely wrought trimmings.
  The greatest care must be used in its cutting, sewing and finishing.  Nothing can be left to chance.  Chiffon is hard to cut out, since its so light it dances across a cutting table every time you move your scissors.  Thank god for rotary cutting tools and mats.  Sewing it is also difficult, as it can pucker with great ease, and anything mis-sewn is going to be devilishly hard to pick out without ruining the fabric. Every seam must be bound, either by the technique of roll hemming, or by covering the edges with ribbon, or bias binding.
  But when chiffon is properly handled the final effect is virtually the textbook definition of the word ethereal.
    And when the hands of skilled embroiderers and bead workers are brought into play, the results are a combination of visual dazzle, and textural dissonance that is pronounced and deeply sexy.  But chiffon can also be worked to appear girlish,  and modest.  What it conveys in nearly every case though is a sense of the easily damaged, of high levels of refinement, and of rarified tastes.
    Recently, as designers of menswear have been exploring new areas, and broadening the scope of what is used to define men's clothing, chiffon has been making a few appearances on runways, primarily in sheer shirts, often embellished in some way. We shall see whether the boys out there think its hot or not.
    Any way you slice the fabric, its not going anywhere.  Chiffon has earned its place in the daily attire dialog.  Its going to be with us a long time.


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